Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

What if Authors could Respond to Referee Comments?

I'm sure any academics reading this can relate to the following experience: despite one referee's glowing report, your paper is rejected on the basis of referee 2's confident "devastating objection," which in fact involves a simple misunderstanding that you could easily correct in a sentence or two, if given the chance.  But of course you are not given the chance: the top journals are overloaded with submissions, so tend to outright reject any paper that doesn't receive uniformly positive peer reviews.It's a frustrating (and frustratingly common) experience for the author.  But it also contributes to the systemic overburdening of journals, as the author now needs to (perhaps make minor tweaks and then) send their paper out to a new journal, which must find all new referees.  It would've been more efficient if the original journal could have disregarded the confused report, and just sought the one replacement referee.How could the journal know that the report was confused?  Well, suppose that before rendering their verdict on your paper, the editors invited you to (briefly!) address the referee reports, indicating any major points of disagreement, and (roughly) what changes you'd make to it if given the opportunity for revisions.  The editors would then make their final decision in light of both the referee reports and the author response.This would require substantive philosophical judgment on the part of the editors, to adjudicate the [More]

You’re the Racist!

In response to a video version of the first D&D and racism essay I did, a viewer posted “yet another racist feeling guilt trying to project their racism onto others, but this one attempting to use logic and his “appeal to superiority” with his college knowledge…” I do not know whether this was a sincere [More]

The Duty to Rescue (Sample Class)

[What follows is the text for a sample “introduction to law”/“critical thinking and law” class that I sometimes run. It is about the duty of rescue and some of the competing intuitions people have about whether such a duty should be recognised in law. The class is basic and is intended for new students or students thinking about studying law. I typically run this class by getting students to vote on their answers to each of the hypothetical questions, discussing their votes with their peers, and then facilitating a class discussion about these votes. This often ends up with me posing multiple variations on the hypotheticals presented below. The class can be expanded or contracted by increasing/decreasing the number of hypotheticals or case studies and by increasing/decreasing the number of student activities within the class. The minimalist version would just cover the initial hypotheticals and the mock jury/judge exercise] One of the distinctive features of our legal system — like all legal systems inherited from the United Kingdom — is that it is based on the common law. In a common law system, legal rules are extracted from cases. People come to court with stories. They tell these stories to judges (and sometimes juries). The judges determine what the ruling should be, sometimes creating new rules but more often by basing their judgment on rules derived from older cases. In legal parlance, we call this “following the precedent” (i.e. following the rule set down in older [More]

The Ten Best Long-Term Predictions in History

Above: Ugo Bardi uses highly sophisticated forecasting techniques. Prophecies often have a bad fame of ending in failure, as I described in a previous post, where I listed ten of the worst predictions in history. Here, I try to do the opposite: dealing with successful predictions. In working on this post, I must say that it was not easy to put together 10 really successful predictions. History is full of false prophets, poor forecasters, dumb extrapolators, disastrous meddlers with computer codes, and more. Really good, long-term predictions are extremely rare. The seers of old and the forecasters of our times faced, and still face, the same problem: if there exists such a thing as "the future" it is something we cannot make experiments with. Maybe the Gods see something we cannot see, but if they do, they don't share their knowledge with us. So, here is the list of the best prophecies I could find. Some are less than impressive, I know, but that's how things stand. Maybe, the secret of prophecy is not trying to predict the future, but being prepared for it.1. Seneca and collapse. Around 60 AD, the Roman Philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 AD-65 AD) wrote that "Increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid." As a prediction, it was somewhat generic, but there is no doubt that it turned out to be correct many times in history. It held true also for Seneca himself, who was struck at the height of a brilliant career when his former pupil, Emperor [More]